As the Fort Hood families grapple with the attacks on their dead and wounded loved ones, it is a bitter irony that people were murdered in what was supposed to be one of the safest places on earth. As one general said on TV last night, "we don't carry weapons here at Fort Hood except for training exercises because it's our home."
Where can a soldier be safe, if not on at home on base? That may have been the killer's intent -- to strike at the core bonds of trust that hold military families together; to make everyone as distrustful of each other as he apparently was of them. That will fail.
Yes there will be changes to the way we lived before -- more security and likely open displays of weapons on base as deterrent and protection. But also more open discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
At least there should be.
In the wake of the massacre there will be a tendency to say one man snapped. That would be wrong. The truth is anyone could have snapped -- and this one sent out warning flares before he did -- so we need to de-stigmatize PTSD and mental health before someone else snaps and more American families suffer.
While it is unfair to expect
an after action report on such a sensitive subject in the
instantaneous news cycle, some immediate questions deserve attention,
such as how does a negative performance review (as alleged here) yield a deployment to a
war zone? At what point does PTSD render a soldier unfit for
deployment? Do we have the mental health regimes we need? Who is
screening the screeners?
Others will say that after the Walter Reed investigations and needs assessment, we are doing all we can to help our troops and veterans get the resources they need. That too would be wrong - we currently have a Senate "hold" blocking passage of S. 1963, “The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009” which could be helping troops and veterans cope with disability and trauma -what the American Legion calls "the invisible wounds of war."
Also, we can work faster and smarter to implement the ideas expressed at last week's first-ever DOD-VA Mental Health Summit.
Tragedy will strike again: there is no safe place from the invisible wounds of war. We can't say we weren't warned; but, for the sake of the grieving families, the dead and the wounded, we must be able to say we did all we knew how to stop it.
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